Archive for the ‘Consumer activism’ Category

Why you still shouldn’t use Vanguard Realty

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

For many years, I’ve been working assiduously to rid my (postal) mailbox of junk mail. The ongoing damage to the environment caused by the many tons of junk mail sent every day to people who don’t even bother to look at it is offensive, and want nothing to do with it.

I wrote back in 2011 about Frank Shaw at Vanguard Realty, a local Realtor who simply refused, despite my repeated requests, to stop sending me junk mail.

Since then, I’ve made two additional requests to other employees of the office to stop sending me junk mail, but it has not helped — I’ve received at least eight more mailings from Vanguard Realty, the most recent one just yesterday. (That most recent mailing, incidentally, engaged in the time-honored junk-mailer tradition of using a completely blank envelope with no return address, a transparent attempt to trick the recipient into opening something that they would otherwise throw away unopened.)

These mailings aren’t just paper. Mr. Shaw insists on sending me refrigerator magnets once or twice a year with the Patriots or Red Sox season schedule on them. Those is even worse for the environment than paper junk mail, and anybody who knows me knows that I have absolutely no use for them.

I’ve received junk mail from numerous other real-estate agents over the years, and most of them have been both willing and able to stop sending it when asked. Vanguard Realty’s failure to do so is indicative of either incompetence or a marked lack of respect for the people from whose business they wish to profit. Therefore, if you’re looking for a real-estate agent, I reiterate the recommendation I posted in 2001 that you choose someone else.

An open letter to the owner of The Chubby Chickpea Food Truck

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Dear Avi,

“You know what the great thing is about owning your own business? You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.”

That’s what you told me this morning when your food truck arrived 10 minutes past its scheduled opening time and still hadn’t opened 10 minutes after that. That’s what you told me after I waited for you in 10-degree weather for 20 minutes, until my gloved fingers had lost all feeling. That’s what you told me when I commented to you, “You know, when it’s this cold, you really have to be here on time.”


Globe Direct: Hey Boston, here’s 34 tons of trash per week on us!

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

What would you say if I told you that there’s a Boston business that adds more than 34 tons per week of trash to the City of Boston’s waste stream*, trash that the residents of Boston end up paying to dispose of to the tune of >$100,000 per year**? What would you say if I then told you that the business that does this has managed to figure out how to get other businesses to pay for it, ripping them off in the process?

Ladies and gentlemen of Boston, say hello to “Globe Direct in association with RedPlum”!


Boston Herald rude sales people won’t leave us alone

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
To: Boston Herald home delivery department
Subject: Rude sales call from Boston Herald

My wife and I (you can find us in your records under our home phone number [elided]) are no longer Boston Herald subscribers. We currently have no desire to resume our subscription. Since we canceled our subscription, your sales department has called us several times trying to get us to resume. This needs to stop. The most recent call, a few minutes ago, was incredibly rude.


Another reminder of why I so “love” Paychex

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Because I am a boring old fuddy-duddy, I was spending the minutes leading up to the New Year trying to reconcile my 2013 medical flexible spending account (FSA), i.e., to match up the FSA transactions listed on the Paychex web site with those listed in my financial management software and confirm that there were no incorrect transactions in either location.

Alas, after several passes through the transactions, there were, in fact, several that I couldn’t reconcile, and even taking those into account, the reconciled balances were not matching up. However, rather than make yet another pass at trying to make them come out even, I decided to go watch the ball drop with my kids.

When I came back to my office, I had been logged out of the Paychex web site due to inactivity, and the transaction history page I’d been looking at was wiped clean. It wasn’t even available in my browser cache, because the Paychex web site is *shudder* entirely implemented as a Flash application. “No problem,” I said to myself. “I’ll just log back in and bring up the data again.”

Alas, when I logged in, I discovered that the web site had rolled over to my 2014 FSA, and none of the data from the prior year was accessible any longer on the site. (more…)

Update on the Macular Degeneration Association

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Das Keyboard comes from behind for the win

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

I recently received a package from Metadot, the creators of Das Keyboard. It contained:

T-shirt, magnet, note pads, note of apology, daskeyboard Space Pen, daskeyboard pens

Here’s what the enclosed note says:

Jonathan, We're sorry we messed up! Please accept these goodies as our thank you for being honest and patient with us. Das Keyboard

The day before, I’d received another package from them, containing a brand new Das Keyboard.

From the “We’re sorry we messed up!” you might suspect that there’s a less positive back story leading up to the seemingly happy ending, and you’d be correct. But I told the ending first for one simple reason: what Metadot did at the end made up for everything that came before, in a way that most companies nowadays just don’t seem to understand. Yes, they made a mistake (quite a few of them, actually), but they acknowledged and apologized for it, they didn’t make excuses, they fixed it, and they went the extra mile to show they were sorry.

Here’s the whole, long story… (more…)

Herb Chambers Honda of Boston tries to charge me $942 for an $118 repair

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

September 22, 2013

American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
Honda Automobile Customer Service
1919 Torrance Boulevard
Mail Stop: 500 – 2N – 7A
Torrance, CA 90501-2746

Attention: [name elided] at 800-999-1009 ext. [extension elided]

This is a followup to the attached letter which I sent you on August 2, 2013, about which we subsequently spoke by phone.

To summarize my previous letter, the back-lighting for the A/C controller for my 2007 Honda Odyssey (VIN [elided]) had not worked since the vehicle was new. I asked you to cover the cost of fixing the problem, even though my Odyssey is out of warranty, since the problem was present from when the vehicle was new.

On the phone, you told me to bring the Odyssey to a dealership and get an estimate, and then we could discuss further whether Honda might be able to cover part of the cost of the repair.

I had Herb Chambers Honda of Boston (1186 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02134) look at the problem while I was also dealing with a dead battery there. They gave me an estimate (see attached) of $942 plus tax to replace the entire A/C switch panel. This, frankly, is patently absurd, so I went home and did some more research on my own.

I was able to buy a quality, warrantied, used A/C controller on eBay for only $74.99. I was able to install the new controller myself in a half hour. Assuming a 100% markup on the cost of the replacement part and an hour of labor at $60 per hour, Herb Chambers should have been able to do the repair for $209.98, over $700 less than the estimate they tried to gouge me with.

But it’s even worse than that. (more…)

Canceling my previous recommendation for

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

I recently recommended a flash charger for cell phones and other devices, being sold by for a great price.

I stand by recommendation of that particular product, but I find it necessary to withdraw my recommendation for

They strongly encourage their customers to recommend their site and products to friends and relatives, and they give customers a $10 credit for each referral that results in at least one purchase. However, they don’t mention anywhere in the various screens urging people to refer others to their site, or in the emails that get sent out whenever a referral credit is generated, that these credits expire after 48 hours. Other credits they give occasionally display the expiration date prominently, which suggests that the concealing of expiration times for referral credits is intentional.

Their inventory doesn’t change often enough for anybody but a shopaholic to be likely to want to buy something from their site within 48 hours of every referral credit. Therefore, their business model for finding new customers is apparently predicated on (a) actively concealing how long referral credits are good for and (b) not actually paying out most of the referral credits that are generated, since they expire before they can be used.

This is an incredibly shady and dishonest business practice which borders on fraud. I don’t do business with companies that do stuff like this, and I discourage others from doing so.

Dear Radio Shack, Please don’t suck so much.

Friday, July 12th, 2013

Dear Radio Shack,

I understand that there are overhead costs associated with being a brick-and-mortar store that on-line retailers don’t have. I also understand that it’s reasonable to pay a premium to acquire a product immediately rather than waiting several days for delivery.

So I could understand if I had paid a bit more for that 1/2AA battery I bought from you this morning than I would have if I’d bought it on-line.

A bit more… but not more than 300% more.

You charged me $19.99 for that battery. I couldn’t find a single merchant on Amazon selling it for more than $5.00. I’d have to be a lot more desperate than I am to think it’s OK to pay a >300% markup just to get something now instead of on Monday.

So yeah, I just bought the battery on-line (four of them, in fact, for less than what you charged me for one), and I’ll be returning the one you sold me when I walk by your store on the way home from work.


A customer who remembers the days when you didn’t suck so much